Australia gambling regulator pumps brakes on Bitcoin bets


australia-bitcoin-online-betting-cease-desistAustralia’s premier online gambling licensing agency is pumping the brakes on its licensees accepting cryptocurrency-based wagers.

On Friday, online sports betting operators holding licenses issued by the Northern Territory Racing Commission (NTRC) received emails alerting them that the NTRC wasn’t down with operators accepting wagers in anything other than fiat currency.

As reported by the Australian Financial Review, the emails declared that the NTRC chairman “is intending to issue a formal communique to all sports bookmakers and betting exchange operators licensed in the NT if currently transacting in cryptocurrency (for example Bitcoin, Ethereum and the like) for their wagering operations to immediately cease and desist.”

The NTRC’s missive appears directly linked to last week’s reports that NTRC-licensed bookmaker Neds had launched Australia’s first Bitcoin-based betting platform. The site accepted deposits and pays out winnings in Bitcoin, but didn’t allow customers to convert their Bitcoin balance to fiat currency. The site now features a notice that the platform “is currently offline pending further instruction from NT Racing Commission.”

The NTRC’s apparently antagonistic stance regarding cryptocurrency wagering stands in contrast to some other major market gaming regulators. For example, the UK Gambling Commission permits its licensees to transact in digital currencies provided they observe their usual anti-money laundering and social responsibility obligations.

The NTRC established itself as the country’s primary online licensing body by offering operators a favorable regulatory and tax regime. This latter benefit is under threat as individual Aussie states pass new point-of-consumption tax laws.

Australia’s federal government has also taken steps to restrict NTRC licensees’ ability to compete with internationally licensed operators by prohibiting online casino and poker products, limiting certain types of promotional offers, and restricting broadcast advertising opportunities.